February 5, 2011

Blizzard

I don't have terribly much to say today, but I wanted to share a few more post-blizzard pictures. Things are clearing up a little around here - still a bit crazy, but liveable. I'll be taking the bus to the grocery store today instead of walking because many sidewalks are still exceptionally dangerous (if they're not shoveled, they're icy ... and some are both), but besides that, everything has been basically back to normal, which is nice. A day and a half off was more than enough!


This is in my side yard - there's a picnic table somewhere under that mountain of snow!


What an awesome landlord I have - the path to the street was totally shoveled and de-iced. No broken necks for me!


One of my neighbors built a snowman - adorable. I might try and do an igloo today if I can convince at least one of my friends to come over. Most of them are students still, so it's unlikely ... I'm the only one with any real free time.


Walking down the street I live on to get to the bus stop - there are huge piles of snow, but at least it's mostly shoveled ... there are paths to get to the main road. A lot of streets are still totally covered.


This is supposedly a bus stop.


My feet are where the edge of the actual curb is. We have to stand in the street to get on or off the bus. It isn't as bad as it may sound, though - it's a lot better than taking the El, which has been not only problematic with the weather, but consistently overcrowded. Some co-workers said they waited almost half an hour for a train!


A pile of snow by the bus stop outside my office building.

And that's all for today, folks. Enjoy your Saturday - be good to yourselves.

February 4, 2011

Roses and thorns

What a week.

My university resumed classes yesterday, the only one in the city to do so. The campus was shoveled a little but there was an awful lot of climbing over giant mountains of snow to get from one place to another - it had me feeling pretty grateful for being faculty and not a student, for only having to go from my office to one other building.

climb over to get to the bus
(This is a bus stop. You need to climb over the two foot pile to get on the bus.)

I had about half my students attend class, which is understandable but still frustrating - I presented new information that most of the kids who had showed up found a little tricky. Hopefully today more students come back for continued explanations and even more new information before their busy week next week of oral presentations and another exam on Friday - it's tough, but unfortunately, the show must go on.

about 18 inches wide
(A path about a foot and a half wide to get from the "sidewalk" to the gym.)

Because of the storm, I missed two days at the gym, but I was right back last night for my Thursday run and weight training. It felt really good to move again after spending most of Wednesday curled up on the couch grading compositions.

This morning, I weighed in at 242 - a one pound loss for the week. I'm feeling neutral about it - I saw 244 almost all week and it caused an unnecessary amount of stress. I did a lot of research on how to work through plateaus on Wednesday and Thursday, and when I sat back and really thought about how I've been doing lately, a small loss makes sense. I'm staying active - very active - but my food hasn't been very balanced. Even though my calories have been within my goal range, I have been eating more carbs than I usually do, while somewhat neglecting protein. (I blame the food processor - but darn, that homemade hummus is so good!) So my goal for this next week is to continue to mix things up.

How was your week?

February 3, 2011

Revisited: 25 Things

I feel like yesterday was an awful lot like going home for Christmas. I let myself build up excessive anxiety on Tuesday night. There was an awful lot of I can't do this. And when I woke up on Wednesday morning ... after the stormit was just another day. I did a ton of work, I relaxed a little, and I made the best choices I could given the nearly two feet of snow outside.

*sigh*

As much as I wish sometimes this journey was smooth sailing, I'm grateful for the bumps. I'm very much an experiential learner, and so as hard as it is some days, I need these challenges and this time to work on figuring out how to make physical fitness a normal part of my regular routine, how to repair my relationship with food, and how to maintain a sense of balance in all areas of my life. I need to understand that plateaus can happen, and that they're only temporary. I have not fallen. I have not failed. I have gone to the gym and worked out as much as I could. I have chosen not to binge. I have eaten well, drank tons of water, and taken my daily multivitamin. I'm doing the best that I can, and that is certainly enough.

My biggest problem lately has been finding it hard to measure the emotional progress I've made since, like I said, I'm so focused on numbers still. So last night I decided to look back at some of my old blog posts to see any changes and get inspiration. I found this post where I had made a list of 25 reasons why I wanted to get healthy. I had seen a documentary where a woman had bariatric surgery and her doctor made her compile a similar list as part of her pre-surgery therapy; I gave myself five minutes and wrote down everything I could think of as fast as I could. Some examples:
To be able to walk into "normal" stores like Old Navy and buy a pair of jeans.

To feel more comfortable when traveling - planes, buses, trains, etc.

To be able to do things more comfortably - like shave my legs.

To not avoid friends because I'm ashamed of what I have allowed to happen to my body.

To prove that I can set a goal and stick to it.

To have more energy.

To sleep better.

To be able to run a mile - really run it - for the first time possibly ever.

To not get winded every time I climb stairs.
When I detach a little from my present self and try examine these past few months from an outside perspective, the changes I've made already become remarkable. I made the list only a few months ago, but look how much I have already accomplished! Losing over one hundred pounds is fantastic and has totally changed my life - but the weight loss isn't the only thing that has changed about me in the past six months. For me, at this point, redefining success is crucial, since the number on the scale is only one method of measuring that.

February 2, 2011

Trying

Trying, when used as a verb, means the action of testing or putting someone or something to a trial. As an adjective, it means profoundly straining one's powers of endurance. For me, Wednesday will be full of examples of both.

I'm writing this Tuesday night in case I don't have power in the morning - and right now, Chicago is a complete mess. There's a severe blizzard - streets and highways closed, public transit practically halted, out my back doorand tons of people in a total panic due to high speed winds, expected heavy snowfall, and "thundersnow," something I'd never heard of but am kind of in love with, despite how dangerous it probably is. It's thunder, lightning, and snow. Incredible.

For the first time in decades, the university where I work has completely shut down. We have a medical center on campus, so in order for the school to shut down, conditions have to be extremely bad. I was told to cut my office hours short this afternoon, so since 2:30 pm and continuing for at least the next day, I'm stuck here at home. All across the city and out into the suburbs, my students are rejoicing, I'm sure. Tomorrow we were supposed to learn our next relative pronoun! Personally, though, I'm feeling really anxious. One, because we only have two weeks for our current chapter, and losing a day means rushing some of the information. And two, because I honestly don't know what to do with myself for an entire day alone in my apartment.

Six months ago, this was my life. Sit on the couch, eat myself sick, watch movies, and play "Sonic the Hedgehog 2." Today would have been a dream. But I'm feeling nervous and really kind of concerned about what I'm going to do with myself all day. 40 compositions down, 20 to go - plus 60 exams. VDM.I brought home my stacks of exams and compositions to grade, so I can at least try to be somewhat productive while I sit around all day and wait for the storm to pass and the streets to clear up. But I'm really, really, really, really, really concerned about my eating. Being confined here has a weird effect on me - I get really snack-y. That's not a real word, but I hope you know what I mean ... it's when I start mindlessly searching the cabinets and the fridge for something to nosh on because it's cold outside and I'm bored, lonely, and want to feel comfortable. I caught myself doing it this afternoon, and it bothers me how easily these old habits come back.

I'm especially concerned about eating because my exercise will be limited to Wii Fit until everything clears up around here. I was supposed to run 2.5 miles today, but the gym closed early, and everything's closed tomorrow ... so, more anxiety there. I know it's not a healthy habit, but I weigh myself every morning, and I was already having a lousy week. It's looking like the first week in six months where I won't be posting a loss - I haven't even had no-change weeks - and this week so far shows a one pound gain. really. truly. honestly.It's incomprehensible to me, because I eat 1200-1300 calories a day and burn 800-1200 calories during each of my workouts, which I do six times a week. This is what I have done for months, but for some reason the past couple of weeks have been slow, and this week it finally halted.

I find myself very mad and frustrated that the numbers aren't adding up, and then I get upset that I'm not practicing what I preach to others. There are so many measures of success - I can feel that my body is changing for the better, my shirts fit better, and my pants are looser in the waist and thighs - but I'm so addicted to numeric successes. Sometimes, I worry that this whole story of mine is a cautionary tale of cycles of addiction, and I haven't truly made progress on recovering from my addiction to compulsive overeating, I've just replaced it with another obsession, a different one that's just as harmful.

Every day, I find new challenges and difficulties in my recovery. The hardest part for me right now is not letting them get the best of me. I am not going to throw in the towel. I refuse to let this win. I refuse to let this defeat me. And I have a plan.

Tomorrow, I am going to eat the same as if I were going to work. My Lean Cuisine will take 45 minutes in the oven instead of 5 minutes in the microwave, but I will be working with what I have. I will do some grading in the morning, then I will do some Wii Fit in the afternoon, and I will read for pleasure in the evening - likely keep working through "Eating Mindfully," since I'm in desperate need of some progress with my emotional weight loss. My goal through all this is to obtain a sense of balance in my life - not obsession or addiction in any aspect, but a healthy sense of balance with all things. Not just today, not just tomorrow, but every single day of the rest of my life - I will seek balance.

February 1, 2011

Wants and needs

About two weeks ago, I bought myself a nice little food processor. I had bought one when I first moved into my apartment, but I had picked out the cheapest one and most certainly got what I paid for. The blades weren't very sharp and it didn't hold very much, so I think I used it once before I brought it to Salvation Army.

While I was in Connecticut, I got into the habit of using my mom's KitchenAid food processor to make bean and veggie dips and other healthy snacks to munch on over the holidays, so when I got back to Chicago, I knew I had to invest in one. My mom has the 7-cup capacity one, but since it's just me here with the occasional guest, I went with the 3-cup.

my favorite new toy
Oh my goodness, I can't believe I have lived so long without one. I wonder if my next career move is to write a recipe book for people with no teeth, because I have started processing everything I can get my hands on.
  • I made homemade hummus, which is both unbelievably easy and amazingly good, and I don't ever want buy store-bought again.

  • I made incredible creamed spinach with two cups of steamed spinach and two blue cheese Laughing Cow Lite wedges.

  • My friend Lorelei came over for lunch last Saturday so I processed together a mango, a banana, and some plain yogurt for a faux lassi drink (and then I froze some of it into the most delicious homemade popsicles).
And last night, I mixed up some white beans and salsa to mix up with lettuce for a strange but totally delicious salad.

my stomach wants this again
(I added more beans, I just wanted to show off the blades!)

it's a good thing i'm single, because i friggen love bean dip
So delicious! It would work really well as a dip, but I was ravenous after work and hitting the gym pretty hard, so I just turned it into a gigantic salad. Works for me!

After thinking it over all weekend, I finally made a decision about my 100 pound weight loss reward: I am going to donate $100 to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. I want to thank everyone for their great suggestions - this was the thing that I felt was the most meaningful. With $100, the GCFD can put food on the table for someone for a year - that breaks my heart, and I personally think that's more important right now than a weekend getaway or a night on the town in a fancy new dress. I also decided against buying myself something because as a single person living alone with a full-time job, I am able to buy myself things, and I generally do so, within reason. Exhibit A, this fancy new kitchen gadget. I'm really lucky to be able to have the things that I want, and so I really want to do something to help people who aren't always able to have the things that they need.

January 31, 2011

WWW: Week Five

My picture for the week:

i need to make this recipe again, that was so good!
My best friend Jill is living on her own for the first time, and we have been talking a lot lately about getting healthy. She wants to cook but doesn't know too many healthy recipes, and she has a few dietary restrictions (meaning, she'll eat meat, she just won't touch it), so I have been putting together some recipes for her. I've been typing them on my lovely seafoam green manual typewriter (her name is Helen Scott) and it makes me feel like Julia Child.

What have you done this past week to help you achieve your goals?
(1) I did it! I lost 3 pounds this week, bringing my total loss so far to 102 pounds.
(2) Yesterday's long run was 3.5 miles - it wasn't hard or painful, but I didn't do my best with time. My treadmill run on Thursday was awesome (2 miles in 24:00), but yesterday's track run averaged a 14:26 pace, which is not great - I'm usually faster on the track than on the treadmill. My first 5k pace was 12:19, so I gave 65:00 as my expected finish time when I signed up for the 8k, which averages 13 minutes per mile. I'm not extremely concerned - I usually get between 12 and 13 minutes per mile, but I was a little distracted this time. And in any case, I still have ten weeks before the race. Everything will work out.
(3) Still looking for jobs, still nothing. Considering different options like going back to school for a teaching certificate or another Masters (in Education) - these decisions need to be made pretty quickly, so that's on my to-do list for this week.
(4) Teaching has gone well! My students turned in composition rough drafts and took their first exam - which will equal about 25 hours of solid grading for me. Hopefully they did well, which would make grading much faster!
(5) I sent my first postcard via Postcrossing! Hopefully I make the day of some lady in the Netherlands.
(9) This week I bought some new running pants - capris from Old Navy made of wicking material. This might not seem like a make-me-feel-gorgeous thing, but it totally is - I am completely in love with my legs these days, and just wearing these pants makes me feel amazing.

January is coming to an end! How do you think you did in the month of January? Review time!
I think I did alright - I accomplished some great things, but there's always room for improvement. Especially now that I'm working on my second hundred pound loss, I have to reevaluate my plan and my habits a little.

Do you feel like your motivation is tapering off now that a month has passed, or are you just as motivated as the beginning of the challenge?
Totally motivated still! This is going to be my year, and it's just getting started!

Who/what inspires you to keep going?
Pictures of who I used to be, feelings of victory and success as the person I currently am, and thoughts and dreams about who I am becoming.

What is the first thing you think of/do in the morning?
Hit the snooze button about ten times, then look out the window. It's a habit from when I was a kid - checking the weather, and always hoping for a snow day. I live in Chicago now, so there's no such thing as a snow day (which is alright by me, because I love going to work every single day), but still, it's part of my routine.

January 30, 2011

Vegetarian chili

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I am a bit of a hoarder when it comes to books. All I really want in terms of material things in life is a library just like in "Beauty and the Beast," and since I have a second bedroom in my apartment, that is currently my home office/library. I love going to thrift stores and buying the books I feel should be in a home library - classic literature, odds and ends, and more old cookbooks than I know what to do with. I'm pretty obsessed with stuff from the 1960s and 70s, especially since so much of it is pretty bizarre. Cases in point:

ughh love this
Completely brilliant advice from the woman behind Cosmo as we know it. Recipes for how to use the pieces of leftover steak you bring home from your dinner date, and an entire chapter called "What a friend we have in cheeses." Just brilliant.

not all salads are as salad-looking as this one on the cover
I was expecting different leafy greens and maybe some tuna and chicken salads. Alas - so much Jello, so little time.

salami pinwheels, i'm yours
The recipes are, surprisingly, not the strangest part of this one - there's a whole section on how to prepare fancy party sandwiches, and the presentation gets extremely inventive. There may be clowns and lollipops involved.

i didn't know cheek was a meat
Because why limit yourself to steaks and chops? If anyone needs a recipe for brain fritters or pig's feet in aspic, I'm your go-to girl.

One time, my sister Katie and I went shopping and she told me I was forbidden from getting any books, and I returned with a 12-volume encyclopedia of cookery. I'm absolutely incorrigible. But really, I mean, how could a person *not* buy these things? It's just all so fascinating! Am I right?!

While on the subject of meat, though, I'll add that I'm not a huge fan of red meat, and I very rarely eat pork. (I did a report on pigs in tenth grade biology. I will not go further with this story.) When I do eat meat, it's either poultry or fish, and while there are a lot of delicious options there, sometimes, you just need a break. This past week was like that - so I went in search of some new vegetarian recipes. I'm going to make a goal of trying to use my awkward and fascinating cookbooks more, because my default for finding new recipes is either Google or word-of-mouth from bloggers. For example, I've heard great things about Mama Pea's blog, and they're all totally well-deserved - she's a great source for vegetarian and vegan recipes. The only problem is that a lot of her stuff feeds families, and if I am making bigger quantities, it needs to be easily freezable.

So for this week, I have a great recipe for vegetarian chili that I found on VegWeb and adapted a little, but starting next week, I am going to try using some of my "real" cookbooks. It should be interesting, if nothing else!

chunky chili deliciousness

It was very hearty and delicious, and had a surprising ingredient: chocolate. Well, unsweetened cocoa powder. But still! I was unsure about it, but it gave the chili a really interesting edge. I loved it, and froze quite a few containers of it for the next few weeks when work starts to get busy and I don't quite feel like cooking.
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 medium peppers, chopped (I used green)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup water
1 can (15 ounce) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup barley
In a large saucepan, sauté the onions and spices in oil. Add peppers and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add cocoa, tomatoes, and water; bring to a boil. Add kidney beans, black beans, and barley. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. or until barley is cooked. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Yield: 8 servings; each serving has approximately 160 calories, 7.5 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 21.2 g fiber, and 27 g protein


The original recipe called for bulgur, but some original commenters said barley was a good substitution - since I had barley and not bulgur, I went for it. I roughly chopped everything since I like chunky chili, but you can go smaller if you want - just be sure not to overcook it!